Thursday, January 21, 2010

drops in the bucket, part 2

Southern California is awash. We average about fifteen inches of rain per year, with three to four inches falling in each of our rainiest months, December and January. This week, it's been more like three to four  inches a day. At hillside locations prone to mudslides, rain is reported in inches per hour.

This is an El Niño year, when records are made and broken. In 1983, the biggest El Niño in recent memory, Sharon and I stood in my backyard and watched 30 feet of waterlogged wooden fence fall toward us with a loud whoo-ummp. That was also the year when so many old SoCal piers made way for redevelopment.

This week all of our four rainbarrels have been filling up more than once a day. That's over 200 gallons of water at a pop. Only one barrel actually came with a legitimate overflow port, but today Steve bought a long black garden hose and a sack of fittings. So far, we have overflow ports and pieces of hose on the two front-yard rainbarrels. This means that when the barrels get full they can drain farther out into the yard, soaking the Mandevilla, the gardenias, and the big white azalea while making room for MORE storm water to be harvested and stored in the barrels.

An overflow port must be located near the top of a rainbarrel so that when the barrel is nearly full it starts draining in a controlled manner rather than just overflowing onto adjacent ground. We've found that one of the backyard barrels has a tiny leak, so it's just dripping in place for right now. But the other backyard barrel has a faucet and an old green hose that I keep turning on and off and re-directing away from the house and wooden fence.

Having four rainbarrels in an El Niño year has been sort of like having an infant who needs tending night and day. Tonight will be quieter by more than half, and tomorrow Steve will get all four rainbarrels equipped with proper overflow valves and hoses.

Saturday is supposed to be a sunny day. I'll be out there weeding for sure. More rain is predicted for next week and then we'll probably be back to drought and fears of global warming. Then we'll see just how far 200 gallons of free water can go. Wanna bet? We'll have a POOL!
See drops in the bucket, part 1

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License